Garry Birtles: Heat is on Nottingham Forest
THE heat is on.
Nottingham Forest must get back on track against Burnley at the City Ground today or the boos will become even louder.
I don't agree with fans jeering the players when they lost at home to Hull last Saturday – but that's football.
The Reds supporters' expectations are just so high this season.
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They have seen the rich Al Hasawi family take over the club.
They have seen the signings like Billy Sharp and Simon Cox and then Jermaine Jenas and Alan Hutton on loan and they expect Forest to win every game.
They expect them to be top of the Championship by a mile and win promotion into the Premiership.
They have seen clubs like Norwich and Swansea go up and do well in the top-flight and they want Forest to do the same.
The problem is, it's not as easy as that as the last couple of games have shown.
After they went unbeaten in five games in October and then four games last month, even beating Wolves at Molineux, I really thought Forest were getting into their stride and would kick on big time against Ipswich and Hull.
I bet the fans did too. But it's not happened and they have stuttered, losing 3-1 at Portman Road and 2-1 against the Tigers on home soil, although they were robbed of a point by Hull because Paul McShane's winner was blatantly hand ball.
That is why the fans vented their frustration like they did.
Losing two games on the bounce is not disastrous, it's not the end of the world.
But Forest are now under growing pressure ahead of facing Burnley – boss Sean O'Driscoll has said so himself on the eve of the game.
I think losing Cox to injury has been a big, big, blow.
They still have Sharp and Dexter Blackstock, but the Republic of Ireland striker was hitting top form before he did his ankle at Wolves.
The Reds' biggest problem though is not in attack, but at the back.
They are conceding far too many goals for my liking – and they have to sort it out.
They let in four against Millwall on a bad, bad day at home and then three at Ipswich and have only kept five clean sheets in 20 league games.
I know they've had a few injuries to deal with so they've not had a settled back-four, but they should still not be letting in three at a struggling team like Ipswich.
It's a big worry and I'm sure O'Driscoll's top priority is to tighten his side up.
Keep a clean sheet, nick a goal, win 1-0, get back on track – that's the kind of win Forest need right now.
I know everyone talks about playing the 'Forest way' and O'Driscoll has got them playing that way this season.
Time and time again, they have gone out and played free-flowing, passing, attacking football that has left fans drooling. But now is the time to dig in and grind out a win.
It's not the time to be pretty, pretty; it's time to be ugly, just to stop the rot.
The Reds certainly cannot afford to lose any more ground on the teams at the top if they are serious about being promotion contenders this season.
I know they are only four points adrift of the play-offs in tenth, which a far cry from 22nd, which is where they were languishing after 20 games last season. But if that becomes seven, eight or nine going into the new year it will be hard for them to claw that back.
They have to stay in contention, they have to stay on the coat tails of the top-six.
It will not be easy against Burnley either because they have one of the best strikers in the division in Charlie Austin.
The Clarets are no great shakes, but with a player like him, who has scored 18 goals in 19 league games this season, they are very dangerous.
After that, Forest have five daunting games to end the year, against Crystal Palace and Leeds at home and Brighton, Watford and Blackburn Rovers away, who are all going well.
Talk about Christmas being a big time of the season.
I just hope the Reds can turn the jeers into festive cheers.
The best early present Forest could give their fans is three points today.